Vancomycin Resistant Enterococci/VRE (Enterococcus spp.)

Vancomycin Resistant Enterococci (VRE)Enterococci are bacteria found in the bowel of healthy people. It usually does not cause illness. This is called colonization. Enterococci can however cause wound and skin infections, and less often, more serious infections of the blood or other body sites. VRE are bacteria that have become resistant to the antibiotic Vancomycin, the drug of choice for treating Enterococci infections that are resistant to many other drugs. When Vancomycin can no longer kill Enterococci this means the bacteria have become resistant.

Image Content Provider: CDC/Janice Haney Carr


Most people who have VRE will not become sick from it and their body will get rid of the organism on its own time. In some cases VRE can cause a variety of infections. Depending on the area infected, a person can have different symptoms that might include fever, wound infections, redness/inflammation, urinary tract infections and pneumonia. Individuals most at risk of illness are those who have had a prolonged hospital stay in a health care facility; are a resident of a long term care facility; or who have had frequent doses of Vancomycin in the past. Individuals who have a weakened immune system are more at risk of getting sick from VRE.


Often, VRE spreads within healthcare facilities. The most common way VRE spreads is from person to person by direct contact, usually with stool (feces), urine or blood that contains VRE. A much less common way it can spread is by touching equipment such as toilets, sinks, bedrails or other items that have become contaminated with VRE. VRE can be spread to others when the infected person does not practise good hand hygiene, especially after using the bathroom and before eating. VRE can live in the environment for days, or even months.


Healthy people, who are carriers of the VRE, with no symptoms of infection, do not need treatment. A person is considered to be infected with VRE when symptoms are present and consultation with an Infectious Disease Specialist is recommended for treatment.


Practicing good hand hygiene especially before eating, and after using the bathroom, is the most effective way to prevent the spread of the infection. Routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces like railings, faucets and handles can also help reduce the spread of infection.  Wearing gloves when caring for someone with VRE will also reduce the risk of spreading the bacteria.

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